March 25, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

A throwaway society should not include disposable people

Cynthia DewesPart of the American Dream has always been the possibility of home ownership.

This is a good thing, which has been a reality for many people. One reason for this is the relatively low cost of what are now called “manufactured homes” so prevalent in our country today.

These structures used to be known as “mobile homes” because they were. You could pick them up and move them to another location. And, even before that, they were called “trailers” because they were usually moved from place to place hitched behind a car or truck.

Part of their low cost is due to the fact that these homes are comparatively cheap to make, and thus easily disposed of. This is evident when tornadoes or fires quickly and totally destroy them. Or when improvident owners fail to maintain them properly, and they deteriorate.

Unfortunately, disposable homes, useful as they are, present one more example of the throwaway society that we have become. Great Depression children are, well, depressed by all the waste that goes on today in the name of convenience, speed and low cost. Things like disposable diapers rather than cloth, paper tissues rather than handkerchiefs, and on and on.

Now, I am not advocating the return of the Sears catalog in place of toilet paper or even hankies instead of Kleenex. Washable cloth diapers hung outdoors to dry might be a good idea, but that would no doubt entail a waste of water, contamination of ground water with toxic detergents and softeners, and the dreaded fossil fuel-powered clothes dryers.

Thus, awareness of the need to protect our natural environment is the ostensible justification for using many of the “convenience” products that we enjoy. It is just ironic that such products in turn often present even more environmental problems, such as how to safely dispose of electronics, plastic bags and containers, and, yes, the new light bulbs.

The latter are designed to last for years and use less environmentally destructive sources of power than incandescent bulbs. Never mind that they are full of mercury and, if broken, by federal mandate must be disposed of in a manner which takes three pages of information to explain. Do we really think that a population always in a hurry will bother with that?

So conserving time as well as the environment is of the essence. The market is full of “quick” food products for the busy, two-income family and fast-food restaurants abound. We drive everywhere rather than walk, and watch snatches of TV rather than read entire books.

Here again, I am not suggesting that families drop below the poverty line so that someone can stay home to cook or that we return to the ox cart.

But good health should be just as important as speed when we are setting priorities. Just look at the statistics on obesity in this country.

But the absolute worst aspect of our disposable society is the legalization making people disposable in abortion.

In effect, unborn babies have become commodities like throwaway diapers. If it is not convenient to have a baby right now, if it is too expensive to support more kids—or for whatever reasons we use to justify abortion—the fact remains that human beings are not disposable commodities and no human law can make them so.

Rather, people are made in God’s image to share in God’s love in this world and the next. They are not disposable, but immortal.

That is the message of Easter, and that is not disposable either.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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